Finally, near the end of a two-and-a-half hour set at the wildly intimate Cubby Bear in Chicago on Friday (Oct. 17) night, the Foo Fighters played a new song.
“We wrote this for the city of Chicago,” frontman Dave Grohl just before launching into the modular muscle rock of “Something From Nothing”, the debut single from their upcoming album Sonic Highways.
It was Dave Grohl’s final overture for the city of Chicago that night, after dedicating the premiere of his HBO docuseries — also titled Sonic Highways — to Chicago’s storied musical history. There’s Buddy Guy and Chess Records, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, Ministry and Wax Trax Records, Naked Raygun, and of course, producer Steve Albini. It was inside Alibini’s Electrical Audio studio where we watch the band piece together “Something From Nothing” as Grohl tries to commune with the various spirits of Chicago’s music.
On its surface, Sonic Highways is just about a huge rock band trying the to make the best album of their entire career. The conceit: eight Foo Fighters songs recorded in eight different studios around the country, each covered in one 60-minute episode.
“If everyone knew more about the people and the places the music was made, people would be more connected to it,” Grohl says in a voiceover as he drives along a decidedly unsonic highway at night.
Grohl surrounds the recording session with several interviews, including a lengthy one with Guy, and historical footage from blues joints and punk clubs over the years. The “Chicago” episode can lean toward vanity project when Grohl tries to subsume these history markers, however incongruent, into Foo Fighters’ identity.
Not everything clicks into place, but to hear Grohl wax about his first punk show — Naked Raygun at The Cubby Bear — and to see Foo Fighters actually cover Naked Raygun’s “Surf Combat” with Jeff Pezzati at The Cubby Bear later that night, his vision for Sonic Highways hoves into view.
Grohl has always been an earnest nerd, and the HBO special, the new album, and theses after-shows are this ultimate, simple representation of it: Here’s why I love the things I love, and I hope you love it to.